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Cheney: Investigators, Keep Out

The vice president blocks an independent commission to investigate 9-11

Michael Isikoff and Tamara Lipper, Newsweek, 21 October 2002


Dick Cheney played a behind-the-scenes role last week in derailing an agreement to create an independent commission to investigate the 9-11 attacks. Last month the White House endorsed the formation of the panel. But on Thursday, hours after congressional negotiators hailed a final deal over the scope and powers of a 9-11 panel, Cheney called House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Porter Goss, sources told Newsweek.

Later that day Goss told a closed-door conference committee he couldn’t accept the deal, citing instructions from “above my pay grade,” sources say. Goss later said he was referring to other House leaders, not Cheney. Goss wouldn’t discuss his call from the VP but said it wasn’t the “determining factor” in his stand.

Cheney’s office said the VP’s only instruction to Goss was to “keep negotiating,” and Bushies insist they still hope to hammer out a new deal before Congress goes home this week. One obstacle: subpoena power. Last week’s proposed deal would allow any five members of the 10-member panel to subpoena documents, including internal White House intelligence briefs. But White House officials say this would allow congressional Democrats—who will control half the appointees—to “politicize” the commission. Cheney strongly opposes the idea of any independent body’s poking into the White House’s conduct. He has repeatedly objected to efforts by a separate joint-intelligence-committee inquiry to obtain documents and interview key witnesses, including an FBI informant who lived with two of the 9-11 hijackers. Bush officials insist the VP’s stand is based on “principle,” not fear of embarrassments. Even some congressional critics tend to agree. “There’s just this general philosophical orientation that the less the world knows, the better,” says one GOP staffer.

Copyright © 2002 Newsweek, Inc.
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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